Seam­less ser­vice and a kitchen that just knows what it’s do­ing

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - Dining Out - MARK TAY­LOR

AS a well-fed restau­rant critic eat­ing his way around the West Coun­try in or­der to point read­ers in the right di­rec­tion for their next meal, I don’t ex­pect an ounce of sym­pa­thy when I tell you I had to drag my­self off my sick bed to de­liver this re­view.

Hit by the dreaded pre-Christ­mas lurgy – it was much worse than the usual man flu – and bed-bound and shak­ing for two days, I was start­ing to worry whether th­ese pages would even be filled at all.

Still, there’s noth­ing quite like the panic of a late copy dead­line and the thought of a fin­ger-tap­ping editor to aid a mirac­u­lous and swift recovery and so I booked din­ner at Dan Moon at The Gains­bor­ough Restau­rant in Bath.

An im­pres­sive build­ing dat­ing from the 1820s, when it was a hos­pi­tal, this lux­u­ri­ous ho­tel is owned by the Malaysian-based YTL Ho­tels group and its big­gest claim to fame is that it’s the only ho­tel in Bath with a spa us­ing the Ro­man city’s nat­u­ral ther­mal wa­ters.

Just five min­utes walk from the rail­way sta­tion and around the cor­ner from Bath’s Christ­mas mar­ket, it’s cer­tainly well po­si­tioned for a fes­tive meal.

A ma­jes­tic build­ing with all the touches of a top-flight five-star ho­tel, down to the sharp-suited staff open­ing doors for you on ar­rival, it is the kind of place where you know the restau­rant is not go­ing to come cheap, although there is a set prethe­atre menu (served 6pm to 7pm) at £35 for three cour­ses or £28 for two.

For those who want to re­ally flex the plas­tic, there’s a six-course tast­ing menu for £60 and also veg­e­tar­ian and pescatar­ian menus, but it was the à la carte that reeled me in.

Head chef Dan Moon has spent most of his ca­reer cook­ing in West Coun­try ho­tels, in­clud­ing Hun­strete House (before it was turned into The Pig), Home­wood Park and Ston Eas­ton.

Since ar­riv­ing at The Gains­bor­ough, he has bagged three AA rosettes for his mod­ern Bri­tish cook­ing, which ma­jors on un­usual flavour com­bi­na­tions.

With its wooden par­quet floor, sump­tu­ous leather arm­chairs and low light­ing, the large restau­rant man­ages to feel warmer and more wel­com­ing than most ho­tel din­ing rooms. Ser­vice is seam­less and the well-drilled staff rarely miss a beat.

After top-notch breads – three dif­fer­ent types matched by a trio of dif­fer­ent but­ters – a starter of sauteed scal­lop, shell­fish risotto, yuzu, king prawn and seaweed (£13.50) showed all the marks of a kitchen that re­ally knows what it’s do­ing.

The scal­lop and king prawn were pre­cisely cooked and the risotto rich and ro­bustly flavoured, with zesty ex­plo­sions from the yuzu and a salty io­dine crunch from the seaweed. My only gripe was that is was quite tricky to eat in its glass bowl as the risotto kept slip­ping around as I cut into the prawn and scal­lop.

Still, let’s not get into first world prob­lems here – after all, I saw sev­eral peo­ple sleep­ing in freez­ing shop door­ways on my walk from the rail­way sta­tion to the restau­rant.

A main course of roasted best-end of Mendip lamb, lamb bon-bon, salt­baked cele­riac, black pud­ding, girolles (£29.50) ar­rived un­der a shiny sil­ver cloche, which was re­moved with a the­atri­cal flour­ish by the wait­ress.

The full-flavoured lamb – both the pink best-end and the more in­tense bon-bon made with the shoul­der – was topped with crum­bled black pud­ding, soft and fluffy salt-baked cele­riac, a few girolles and lash­ings of rich jus. It wasn’t an es­pe­cially chal­leng­ing dish but it was an in­tel­li­gent and con­fi­dent bit of cook­ing.

Lemon mousse, cran­berry sor­bet, lemon balm, meringue, pas­sion fruit (£9.50) was sim­i­lar to a cheese­cake in that the zesty mousse had a bis­cuit base but there was a brit­tle crunch from the meringue match­sticks and tiny Iced Gems-like swirls. The cran­berry sor­bet pro­vided a sharp­ness that sliced through the mousse and a jug of pas­sion­fruit essence com­pleted a light and re­fresh­ing fi­nale.

By the end of that lit­tle lot, your poorly critic was feel­ing re­vived, back on track and with enough en­ergy to open the lap­top. But then I’ve never needed much ex­cuse to feed a cold lav­ishly.

RAT­ING 4/5

Lemon mousse, cran­berry sor­bet, lemon balm, meringue, pas­sion fruit was sim­i­lar to a cheese­cake

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